In Egypt, he is called quite simply, “The Pharoah”. He determines who will excavate in Egypt and when and where. He is Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and Egypt’s Vice Minister of Culture. He is also the star of his very own reality show, Chasing Mummies, which screens on the History Channel, and for this amateur Egyptologist, he is simply awesome.
Before I get to the show however, here’s a little background on this Egyptian legend: Hawass was born in Damietta, Egypt in May 1947. Originally he intended to become a lawyer, but then studied Greek and Roman archaeology at Alexandria University, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree. Eventually he went on to teach archaeology at the University of Cairo, but amazingly Hawass admits that he originally hated archaeology and antiquities!
“I actually I did not like archaeology, at all,” he has said. “I went to take a job—I was about 20 years and a half—and I went to the department, and I found people at the age of 60—[they were] old; they did nothing with their lives—and I said to myself, ‘Am I going to be like these people? No way!’ I did my best to leave antiquities, but I failed. I tried to be a diplomat and I failed. And when I came back to antiquities, by force, in the desert, I was unhappy.”
But then one day, his life changed forever. “One day, the workman found a statue in the desert and they called me to come and look at this statue. Actually I was not going—I wasn’t going to go, but I felt bad; I thought, ‘I have to see that statue because I am going to Cairo today.’ But when I went to the workman, he asked me to sit down beside him, and I began to brush that statue, and clean it, and this is when I said, “I found my love: archaeology.” And ever since that time, more than 40 years ago, I have devoted my life and my passion to this field. I have begun to see that archaeology, for me, is like… someone; like a lady that you’re in love with.”
Currently Hawass’ passion is taking him to actively search for the tombs of Antony and Cleopatra. He’s also occupied with locating obelisks and statuary submerged in the Nile River, and having used robotic technology, he will soon reveal what lies behind the Great Pyramid’s interior hidden doors. Not bad for a guy who hated archaeology!
Hawass now brings his passion for all things Egyptian to his new reality show, Chasing Mummies. Here, Hawass takes viewers on a journey they will not soon forget. This unique series follows Hawass and his team of American students, as well as the series’ executive producer Leslie Greif, as they explore Egyptian tombs both above and below ground and face all kinds of unforeseen thrills, adventures and dangers. In the first episode, one of the students and a cameraman gets locked inside the Step Pyramid, the oldest pyramid in Egypt, for six hours and Dr. Hawass must come to their rescue! And that’s just in the first ten minutes of the show!
So for anyone who is an Egyptophile like me or is simply looking for some adventure on a hot summer’s night, Chasing Mummies is a show not to be missed!
Chasing Mummies airs on Wednesdays at 10 pm on the History Channel.